Perhaps the most effective and traditional herbal cleansing compound in Ayurveda is triphala (literally three fruits, tri = three and phala = fruits). It is composed of powdered amalaki, haritaki and bibhitaki and because each fruit is beneficial to a particular dosha (vata, pitta or kapha), the three combined make triphala a unique cleanser that helps to re-balance all the doshas at the same time.
The amalaki fruit is very sour, but because its secondary tastes include sweet, bitter and astringent, its effect is cooling and good for pitta. Amalaki cleanses the small intestine, the seat of pitta, and the liver. It helps reduce hyperacidity and nausea and is known for improving digestion without disturbing pitta. Also known as amla, it can be found in many shampoos and hair oils as it is very nourishing for hair and skin.
Haritaki is mainly astringent, but also possesses sweet, sour and some pungent tastes and therefore pacifies vata as its effect is warming. Haritaki works principally on the colon, where vata resides, and is especially good for removing excess “wind” and restoring the tone and elasticity of the colon wall.
Bibhitaki has an initial astringent taste, and although sweet is among its secondary tastes, there is enough bitter and pungent to make it beneficial for kapha. Bibhitaki helps to purify all bodily fluids and is found to be helpful particularly in areas of the lungs and stomach, where kapha is found. Asthma, wheezing and other lung disorders are traditionally thought to respond to bibhitaki.
By combining the “three fruits” to make triphala, many imbalances can be alleviated or even prevented. While other Ayurvedic formulas may be recommended for short periods of four to eight weeks, triphala can be taken as a tea over several months. There are some contraindications. Triphala can increase pitta. If this is a concern sometimes just amalaki can be used. It is always recommended to take the advice of an Ayurvedic physician. There are many different ways one can use triphala. One common way is to use 1/2 to 1 full teaspoon to make a tea and drink this in the evening before sleep or early in the early morning upon rising.
Because triphala contains five of the six tastes recognized in Ayurveda (all but salty, which is not always useful in cleansing or rejuvenation), triphala may taste different each time one uses it. For example, if a person does not regularly receive the bitter or astringent tastes in his or her diet, the triphala tea may seem extremely bitter/astringent when first used. After three weeks of taking the tea, along with reducing one's sweet and sour intake, the triphala may then taste sweet or sour because the other tastes have been supplied through the tea.
Triphala has potentially hundreds of uses. Besides those already mentioned, it can be used to clean the teeth and gums (although it may eventually stain the teeth), as a poultice for some wounds or rashes, or in medicated enema (basti). In some cases triphala can be used for obesity and toxicity, edema and fever.
There are stories in Ayurveda of old “vaidyas” (physicians) who helped dozens of patients each day using only triphala. Dr. Lad has observed that “a good healer need not remember the names of a thousand medicines. Even a few can suffice if one knows many different ways of using them.”
Properties of Triphala:
Standard Triphala: 2 Parts of Haritaki, 5 Parts of Amalaki, 3 Parts of Bibhitaki
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Adapted from Fair Use Source: http://oneearthherbs.squarespace.com/downloads/BestOfTheBestHerbs.pdf
Alan Keith Tillotson, Ph. D., A.H.G., D.Ay, (Author), Nai-shing Hu Tillotson, O.M.D., L.Ac., One Earth Herbal Sourcebook: Everything You Need to Know About Chinese, Western, and Ayurvedic Herbal Treatments]], Burlingame, California: Kensington, 2001. ISBN 1575666170 Paperback: 596 pages.
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Adapted from Fair Use Source: Vaidya Gogte, Ayurvedic Pharmacology and Therapeutic Uses of Medicinal Plants, Dravyagunavignan, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 2001: p.
Adapted from Fair Use Source: Sebastian Pole, LicOHM AyurHC, Ayurvedic Medicine The Principles of Traditional Practice, Churchill Livingstone, 2006: p.
Adapted from Fair Use Source: Will Maclean, Clinical Manual of Chinese Herbal Patent Medicines: a Guide to Ethical and Pure Patent Medicines, Pangolin Press, 2003, Revised Edition: p.
Adapted from Fair Use Source: Roger Wicke, Ph.D, Traditional Chinese Herbal Sciences Self-Study Reference TCM Herbal Tutor, Rocky Mountain Herbal Institute, RMH-Publications Trust, 2005.
Primary Original Source: The Tripitaka of Sutra, Shastra and Vinaya Dharma teachings (as found in the scripture storehouse of the Indian Sanskrit - Siddham, Chinese, Tibetan and Japanese traditions of the Nalanda Tradition of ancient Nalanda University) of Shakyamuni Buddha, and his Arya Sagely Bodhisattva Bhikshu Monk and Upasaka disciples.
These Good and Wise Advisors (Kaliyanamitra) Dharma Master teachers include Arya Venerables Monk Doctors Nagarjuna (Sushruta Samhita), Ashvaghosha, Aryasura, Aryadeva, Jian Zhen Shr and other lay healers such as Shen Nong - a transformation body of (Bhaisajya Raja Bodhisattva, Jivaka, Charaka (Caraka Samhita), Vagbhata (Astanga Hridayam), Zhang Zhongjing, Hua Tuo, Wang Shuhe, Huangfu Mi, Ge Hong, Tao Hongjing, Chao Yuanfang, Sun Simiao, Wang Tao, Qian Yi, Liu Wansu, Zhang Zihe, Li Dongyuan / Li Gao, Zhu Danxi, Li Shizhen, Wang Kentang, Wang Youxing, Zhang Jingyue, Ye Tianshi, Wang Qingren, Wu Shangxian, Vasant Lad, and Dharma Healers such as Kumarajiva, Shantideva, Chandrakirti, Chandragomin, Vasubandhu, Asanga, Hui Neng, Atisha, Kamalashila, Dharmarakshita, Tsong Khapa, Thogme Zangpo, Patanjali, Sushruta, Charaka, Vagbhata, Nichiren, Hsu Yun, Hsuan Hua, Shen Kai, Tenzin Gyatso, Kyabje Zopa, Ajahn Chah, and other modern day masters. We consider them to be in accord with Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua’s “Seven Guidelines for Recognizing Genuine Teachers”
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